Former Mercedes sponsor jailed for 25 years

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The man behind a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with Mercedes that ultimately turned sour has been jailed for 25 years.

In September 2021, the F1 team announced a new long-term partnership with global cryptocurrency firm FTX that was due to last for multiple seasons, with its branding featuring on the cars, drivers’ overalls, trucks, garages, and hospitality.

At the time, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described FTX as “a well-matched partner in our relentless pursuit of performance”.

Fourteen months later, ahead of the penultimate race of the 2022 season in Brazil, Mercedes suspended its partnership with FTX after it was announced the company was filing for bankruptcy and its CEO Sam Bankman-Fried had resigned.

Mercedes was one of several high-profile partnerships involving FTX, which at one stage was valued at $32 billion. American football star Tom Brady, National Basketball Association teams the Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat, as well as Major League Baseball were all involved.

Speaking about FTX’s collapse, Wolff said: “We considered FTX because they were one of the most credible, solid, and financially sound partners out there, and out of nowhere, you can see that a crypto company can be on its knees and gone in one week.

“That shows how vulnerable the sector still is. It’s unregulated, and I believe it needs to find its way into regulations because there are so many customers, investors, partners like us that have been left in utter disbelief at what has happened.”

Bankman-Fried was convicted on all seven counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money in November last year, committing what has been described as ‘one of the largest financial frauds in history’.

At the end of that month, an investor lawsuit cited Mercedes, along with other sports partnerships, as allegedly “aiding and abetting” the multibillion-dollar fraud that occurred at FTX due to the lucrative sponsorship deal.

The 32-year-old was this week sentenced in a Manhattan federal court to 25 years imprisonment, as well as being ordered to forfeit $11bn in assets.

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